A public hearing on a proposed conservation easement purchase brought only positive reactions from the community, and the project will now go to the public again through a Town Council public hearing.
The Conservation Commission sponsored the hearing Monday night on purchasing the easement on approximately 110 acres bordering Island Pond Road, Gulf Road and Ballard Pond. The price of the easement is $801,253, and the Commission is asking permission to use up to $386,000 from the Land Use Change Tax fund toward the easement.
The property is Tax Map 4, Lot 7 and Tax Map 6, Lot 37 and is located at 189 and 194 Island Pond Road. It is owned by Dorothy Gunther and Victor Nelson.
David Viale of the Southeast Land Trust was in attendance and spoke to the easement purchase. The easement would be monitored by the Land Trust, with additional monitoring by the town and the State of New Hampshire.
Conservation Chairman Margaret Ives explained that the project meets several criteria in the Commission’s checklist for properties to save. “It rated very high,” Ives said. The primary purposes will be for agriculture and forestry management.
Viale said the Southeast Land Trust has protected 200 properties totaling 11,000 acres.
The property being discussed has frontage on both sides of Island Pond Road, on Gulf Road and on Ballard Road, according to Viale.
It contains approximately 30 acres of fields, which include important agricultural soils, Viale said. It also includes 80 acres of forest, which provides wildlife habitat and could also be managed as an active forest, he said.
Placing a conservation easement will permanently restrict the acreage from commercial, industrial and residential development, Viale said. In an analysis of its development potential, the property was determined to be able to host as many as 25 house lots, he said.
The total purchase price for the easement is estimated at $801,253, but the following grants are being applied for:
• New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) Water Supply Land Protection Grant, $396,876;
• New Hampshire Moose Plate Grant, $15,000; and
• $3,750 from the landowners toward the appraisal costs.
The grants would leave the town responsible for the $386,000 to complete the purchase price.
Tom Cardon, Council representative to the Commission, asked where the public access was planned.
Viale said because the property is still an active horse boarding farm, Gunther has requested that the public not have access to the area around the horses. But she is open to having “guaranteed public access” in other parts of the property, he said, and there are already existing trails in the woods.
Viale said the most appropriate spot for public access is off Gulf Road.
In the public hearing, Richard Tripp, a former member of the Commission and now a Town Councilor, thanked a previous Council for allowing the Commission to keep the Land Use Change Tax. “If we didn’t have that money, we wouldn’t be a player in this,” Tripp said.
Community member Mary Eisner said the purchase of the easement was “in the best interests of the Town of Derry.”
Eisner, also a member of Go Green, pointed out that “If a car idles for one hour, it sends off 10 pounds of CO2. We need the trees.”
The public hearing closed and Ives thanked Gunther and Nelson for being willing to sell the development rights. “This is a beautiful act,” she said.
Ives and Viale sketched the next steps of the process, with Ives saying the metaphorical ball will go back into the owners’ court.
Viale said, “We will develop a memorandum of understanding with the town for the use of funds. We will work with the town and landowners in the development of the deed.” Other details include a boundary survey, title work to make sure the title is “clear and marketable,” and an environmental hazard assessment. At the end of the year, this should be completed and the deal recorded at the Registry of Deeds, he said.
Viale added that the town will hold the back-up easement, to be able to step in and monitor if the Land Trust defaults for some reason, and noted the state has “right of enforcement” due to the DES grant.
The Council will have final approval, Viale said.
No decision was made Monday night. Ives said the project will be voted on by the Commission in its next regular meeting, July 13.